Want to achieve your NYE Resolutions in 2022?

Something's holding you back.

Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash

“81% of people slip up on their New Year resolutions. Most are abandoned by mid-January.” — a study by Scranton University

There must be a problem here, right?

First, what do we think makes a good New Years resolution?

New Years resolutions are goals. Fundamentally goals require time and work to achieve them. It’s relatively common knowledge now that effective goal planning requires something like the SMART framework, which is an important tool to master. In reality though, while this framework seems great in theory, it’s not necessarily the answer — we still struggle to achieve our goals.

Further reading: https://www.atlassian.com/blog/productivity/how-to-write-smart-goals

The rest of this article goes deeper into some reasons why we still fail to achieve our goals.

Reason #1: you forgot them

Without looking at your notes or your journal, ask yourself right now — what were your New Years Resolutions? Chances are you probably don’t remember, and that probably comes down to not checking them enough. Try to keep track of your goals somewhere you see all the time. This could be above your to-do list, sticky notes on your laptop or desk, a whiteboard etc…

Further reading: hope this isn’t needed for this one

Reason #2: you didn’t plan out your goal in the first place

My favourite quote from Nir Eyal’s Indistractable is “You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from.” In other words, if you don’t plan for ‘traction’, you’ve set yourself up to not get anywhere before you’ve even started. Nir suggests to plan out inputs rather than outputs (ie. time rather number of tasks), which is a technique called time boxing.

Further reading: https://hbr.org/2018/12/how-timeboxing-works-and-why-it-will-make-you-more-productive

Reason #3: even if you did plan them, you didn’t end up doing it.

We can remember our goals and plan things well, but we still might not achieve them. I’m going to throw out there some potential explanations for you:

i. Distractions

We get distracted more than we think. It’s not just our phone — anything from our colleagues to clutter on your desk can be a distraction.

Further reading: Nir Eyal’s Indistractable and Cal Newport’s books.

ii. Procrastination

Even if there are no external stimuli to distract you, we can get distracted in our own thoughts. This is a trickier one and takes time to master — but meditation-like practices can help us analyse and separate our beneficial thoughts from our bad.

Further reading: https://www.headspace.com/blog/2015/10/20/procrastinating-read-this-right-now/

iii. Irrational attention

Our modern brains are programmed to like quick, easy rewards. Big goals often seem daunting and as a result are hard to work towards sustainably. This leads us to search for any kind of quick reward such as social media or a small task instead.

Further reading: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/what-is-dopamine-fasting#The-science-behind-dopamine-fasting

iv. Dissatisfaction

It can come down to just not getting enough motivation from what you’re doing. You can either make a concrete change or a mental one. Is this goal you’re working towards something you really want? If it’s not, why are you doing it? You can just forget about this goal. If however, what you’re working on is just a necessary evil, you can try to change how you perceive the thing that is dissatisfying and make it fun.

Further reading: https://www.nirandfar.com/tedious-tasks/

Stop and think

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but at least one of these affects pretty much everyone I know. If you’re at this point and still think none of these apply to you:

  1. Think deeper — I’d be willing to bet you a pizza (if that was possible) that they do affect you, even if it’s on a subconscious level.
  2. If you’re still convinced, what are you still doing reading this? Go put your superpower to use and go get some cool things done.

Final thoughts

Armed with a bit more awareness about what obstacles you are facing in your goal setting (and achieving) process is just half the battle.

The other half of the battle is a cocktail of willpower and personalised framework for getting things done.

Photo of the Founder of Rocket
@cameron
December 9, 2021
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